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August 27, 2010

Just a few snap beans this year

As I have mentioned in several posts this summer, my green beans (or snap beans) are not doing well this year. The last planting germinated as poorly (or even worse) than the rest. It is just not my year for snap beans. On the other hand, it was a great year for fava beans and it looks like it could be a very good year for my first attempt at fresh shelling beans (and maybe dry beans, with good fall weather). Which brings me to the title of this post: Diversity.

Etna shelling beans are looking good

It is a good thing I have a diversity of fruits and vegetables, for several reasons. A major one is demonstrated by the beans. If you have a monocrop and your crop fails, you are up a creek without a paddle (or however you want to phrase that saying). What if beans were my only crop? I cannot say their absence has not affected the bottom line; it has. They were my third best seller last year, at just about 6% of my total sales. But there you go: a 6% loss is much better than 25% or 50% or 100%. And, with a diversity of crops, I might be able to make up for that loss (or at least some of it) with another crop that does well this year.

From Asain pears...

Another reason I am glad to have a diversity of crops is for pest management. With a diversity of plant life, you bring a diversity of animal/insect life into the scene. And it seems to be pretty clear, that a diversity of life is the best way to keep a balance of the good and the bad pests in the garden. Here is a quote from John Jeavons in his book How to Grow More Vegetables:

“Paying attention to the soil and to plant health, planning a varied environment, and leaving a few wild spaces for unexpected benefactors minimize pest losses more effectively than the use of poison. Also, in order to have beneficial insects in your food-producing area, you must provide food for them–which may be some of the harmful insects! If there are no harmful insects to feed them, then there will be few, if any, beneficial insects around to act as friendly guardians for your garden. This seeming paradox–the need for both kinds of insects for the most healthy garden–is symbolic of nature’s balances.” zucchini

As an example, I think about a new pest in Oregon, the Spotted Wing Drosophila. I have not yet seen evidence of it in my garden, though a neighbor not too far away has seen evidence of it in her blueberries. Why? I can’t be sure, but I can’t help but think the diversity helps: possible pest preditors? a mix of crops not being as much of an attractant as just one crop? luck? maybe it is still coming?

Finally, diversity just makes gardening more interesting. I like to eat different things and I like to grow as much of my food as I can. Growing one or two things might be easier, but it is not as much fun.

An olive tree? It may not be practical, but it is fun to try

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